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Here’s the honest truth: I’m not entirely sure why I’m a fan of Marquette.
I think it has to do with the drawings I did when I was a kid.
I remember sprawling on the dining room floor, right at the lip of the short two-step stairs down into our blue carpeted living room, drawing on these giant golden sheets of paper. At least, they seemed giant to me, but I was maybe seven or eight years old at the time, maybe even further back. We moved out of that house when I was 10, so it couldn’t have been any time past that. My dad had brought the sheets of paper home from work, I think, and I would draw these absolutely ridiculous theme park maps on them. Not recreations of maps of Disney World or anything, whatever lunatic ideas spring forth from the mind of a second-grader.
I know, this has nothing to do with basketball or sports at all. Stick with me here for a minute.
Either I was scribbling away on one of these when my maternal grandparents were visiting or my mom had merely told her parents about my maps. The point is that I remember my mom telling me that Grandma, born in Milwaukee and raised by Polish immigrants, had said that it seemed like an engineering kind of thing I was doing and Marquette was a good engineering college.
That, as it turns out, was that. The idea of attending Marquette was officially burned into my brain. I remember having the thought — again, I’m not even 10, so this kind of thing seems like a brilliant idea at the time — that I could live with my grandparents in Milwaukee while attending Marquette. My brother and I would occasionally spend a night here and there with them, when my parents would attend a wedding or whatever, and that was always fun, so why wouldn’t I want to live with Grandma and Grandpa when I’m 19 and in college?
Nine year olds are weird.
While I had the idea about attending Marquette in my head at a really young age, I didn’t actually become a fan of the sports teams until I was in high school. A friend of mine’s dad was a Marquette alum, and he knew I was interested in attending, so he took me and his son to a Marquette game. I don’t remember anything about it other than we sat in the upper deck of the Bradley Center and it was against American University. That means it has to be their lone previous meeting in December 1992, although I would have sworn it was before then. Jim McIlvaine, Damon Key, and Robb Logterman were all juniors that year, Tony Miller was a sophomore, and Roney Eford was a freshman. It turns out that it was a pretty momentous season for Marquette, as they would go on to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years that March.
My memories are jumbled here, but it was either that first round game against Oklahoma State or the first round game against Louisiana-Lafayette the following year that locked me up for good as a Marquette fan. Strangely, it’s not because I remember anything specific about those games. In fact, until I looked at the College Basketball Reference page, I was sure that my high school had wheeled in a TV during lunch so we could watch Marquette take on #7 Kentucky in the 1994 tournament..... except that game was on a Sunday. Couldn’t have happened. Looking back at it now, it must have been the OK State game. Why? Because at that point, Wisconsin was still one year away from ending their 46 year streak of no appearances in the NCAA tournament, so MU being in the tournament was a pretty eventful moment in the state.
My memories of MU hoops continues to get stranger, by the way. I have a distinct memory of hurrying home in 1994 to see Marquette play Duke in the Sweet 16 after they had knocked off Kentucky, and coming home early in the game to see MU with an early lead.... except I remember it happening in the old house, the one we had moved out of six years earlier. I have the memory of coming in from the garage into that same dining room where I had made those drawings, turning left towards the living room, turning on the TV, and seeing MU up on Duke with the TV in the corner on the left side of the bay window..... but I hadn’t lived in that house for more than half a decade at that point.
The following year, my junior year of high school, Marquette made their run to the NIT championship game before falling in overtime, and then I was hooked completely. I applied to Marquette, College of Engineering as was always the idea from waaaay back when, and upon enrolling, joined the band because my high school conductor insisted that I should. That’s how I ended up in Baton Rouge to see the Marquette women’s basketball team get their first ever NCAA tournament victory, but that is a different story for a different time.
Now, that story I told at the beginning about the maps and the idea planted in my head by my grandmother, it’s all true, or at least as true as I remember it happening. Life happens along the way, though, and when I got my first full-time adult job in the summer of 2001, it wasn’t in engineering. It was, however, enough reliable and disposable income for me to plunk down a deposit and get Marquette men’s basketball season tickets for the first time. The team had gone though a thing or two while I was going through a thing or two as well, and Mike Deane had been replaced by Tom Crean two seasons earlier. I admittedly wasn’t paying as close of attention as I could have been, so when I attended my first game as a season ticket holder — really great seats, about 10 rows off the floor across from the visitor’s bench, totally by random chance and assignment by the athletic department at the time — I was shocked by what I saw.
Dwyane Wade, making his Marquette debut, went for 21 points, nine rebounds, and five assists, all team highs, as the Golden Eagles beat Loyola-Chicago. It’s not a unique thing for me to say, as I’ve heard it echoed a number of times, but I knew that MU had something special on their hands from the very first night I saw Wade play. Think about this one: Announced crowd of 9,778 at the Bradley Center as MU got their first of 10 straight wins to open that season. That probably helps explain why my randomly assigned seats were so good, huh?
I took my dad with me to the games in the first few seasons that I had tickets, and now I take my kids with me. It was my dad who sat next to me when the Bradley Center court was stormed in 2003 when Marquette beat Cincinnati to clinch the Conference USA regular season title, and it was my daughter, now just 15 months away from high school herself, who was jumping up and down next to me when Sam Hauser hauled in that rebound against Villanova back in January.
Why am I a fan of Marquette? I really don’t know. I really can’t explain it. It’s kind of a thing that just happened to me, something that I just stumbled into by accident, I guess. What I can tell you, though, is that every time I stand for Where The Streets Have No Name at the Bradley Center, every time that I hear “Point Marquette” on the PA at the McGuire Center, every time that I hear “Marquette Gooooaaaaaaaaaal” at Valley Fields, I know that I feel a sense of belonging to something bigger than me, and that’s why I know that I’m in the right place for me.
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